An ongoing discussion of how the comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the Star Trek episodes and films, soon to be a book from BearManor Media. Click here to view an archive of this article series.
119: IDW Publishing, 2016–2017
IDW, with its exemplary Star Trek line, is the only company to surpass DC Comics’ Trek output. Whereas DC produced a total of 300 issues, IDW is now well beyond its 400th, making it the undisputed king in terms of volume. But prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, one area in which readers had historically expressed frustration had been in the variety of its coverage. Up to that point, the majority of IDW’s tales had focused on characters and concepts from The Original Series, The Next Generation, the Kelvin timeline, and the prime-reality theatrical films. While the company had featured Deep Space Nine and Voyager, such stories had been few and far between.
Meanwhile, Star Trek: Enterprise had been all but ignored, reportedly due to likeness rights and the perception that Jonathan Archer’s exploits were less likely to sell than those of other captains. As such, it was a delight when IDW announced Star Trek: Waypoint, a bimonthly anthology honoring the franchise’s 50th anniversary by featuring the casts of every live-action show from the 1960s to the early 2000s. This marked Star Trek’s third anthology comic, following WildStorm’s Star Trek Special and Tokyopop’s manga digests. The Animated Series was not included in the mix, but IDW has many times referenced that cartoon, so Arex and M’Ress fans needn’t feel overlooked.
The six-part miniseries was appropriately named, for a waypoint is a stopping place on a long journey, located between a route’s major points. Rather than following the usual pattern of stories having huge stakes and a vast scope, Waypoint enabled writers to delve into smaller-scale adventures one would likely not see play out onscreen. IDW assembled a team of rotating artists and writers to create short tales spanning Gene Roddenberry’s vast pantheon, resulting in an array of storytelling and artistic approaches involving every crew from James T. Kirk’s to Archer’s.
The stories included Nyota Uhura befriending an inquisitive alien that changed its form to communicate, Kathryn Janeway visiting a monument for fallen Starfleet officers, Naomi Wildman drawing an adorable comic about her adventures aboard the USS Voyager, Kira Nerys honoring an archaic Bajoran tradition, a young Archer receiving aid from a mysterious beagle, Julian Bashir reflecting on his own cockiness, Christine Chapel visiting a medical conference, and more. Small in scale, all of them—but very creative and imaginative.
Waypoint showcased a range of talents both literary and artistic, many new to the franchise, with a few “big names” along for the ride. Writers included Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, Corinna Bechko, Gabriel Hardman, Donny Cates, Sandra Lanz, Sam Maggs, Mairghread Scott, Cecil Castellucci, Vivek J. Tiwary, Scott Bryan Wilson, Cavan Scott, and Simon Roy. And the series featured artwork by Lanz, Roy, and Hardman, along with Gordon Purcell, Rachael Stott, Mack Chater, Corin Howell, Megan Levens, Hugo Petrus, Caspar Wijngaard, Josh Hood, and Christopher Herndon.
Waypoint’s stories, with two presented per issue, were standalone in nature, due not only to their shorter length but also the miniseries’ microcosmic canvas. Nonetheless, a few are worth noting for the purpose of this column’s focus on sequels, prequels, and tie-ins to onscreen lore. Cates’ “Puzzles,” for example, was set after Star Trek: Nemesis, though the revelations of Star Trek: Picard have since relegated it to an alternate timeline. In this telling, Data’s consciousness was uploaded successfully to the Enterprise’s computer following his death in the film, after which he apparently created multiple holographic copies of his body so he could man every bridge station. It’s a wonderful visual, even if it doesn’t match later TV developments.
Data serves as the starship’s first officer, with his friend Geordi La Forge in command—a stark contrast with the android’s grimmer fate on Picard. What’s fascinating is that the story, while rendered apocryphal in the current era, proved prophetic. In both versions of history, Data dies a second time post-Nemesis (see Picard episode “Et in Arcadia Ego”), while Jean-Luc Picard ends up an admiral emotionally distant from his former officers.
Magg’s “Legacy” is the above-noted Starfleet monument story. The focus is not on Janeway, but on a memorialized officer: Yeoman Leslie Thompson, murdered by Rojan in the 1960s’ “By Any Other Name.” Thompson narrates the story posthumously and is immortalized as the only woman ever to die on landing party duty during Kirk’s five-year mission… which doesn’t jibe with the many licensed tales in which female crewmembers have perished under Kirk’s command, though she was the only one so onscreen. Either way, it’s a powerful tale and one of Waypoint’s standouts.
Leslie’s personal life is explored significantly, one of the few times a “redshirt” from TV has been fleshed out in a comic. The yeoman is shown to have had a non-human wife with whom she’d raised a Vulcan daughter (there’s a great story to be told about this mixed family—licensees, take note), and she’s depicted as having saved the Enterprise on many occasions without receiving credit for her efforts. Viewers barely knew Thompson before Rojan turned her into a dehydrated cuboctahedron and then crushed her, whereas readers discover she was integral to the outcomes of multiple episodes in which actor Julie Cobb didn’t even appear.
This is accomplished via scenes revisiting “The Galileo Seven,” in which she repairs a damaged transporter so Spock, Leonard McCoy, Lieutenant Boma, and others can be rescued from the Galileo; “Mirror, Mirror,” in which her technical expertise enables the alternate universe’s Jim Kirk and his evil comrades to return to their Enterprise; and “The Doomsday Machine,” in which she crawls into a Jeffries tube to save her coworkers from the Planet Killer. Thompson repeatedly risks her own life to ensure others’ safety, making her too-brief TV scenes all the more poignant.
Tiwary’s Archer-centric tale, “The Fragile Beauty of Loyalty,” is particularly noteworthy, as it remains the only time that character has appeared in a comic. As mentioned above, Star Trek: Enterprise has largely been ignored in the four-color arena, other than a few brief cameos here and there by that show’s minor characters. Doctor Phlox was featured in both Klingons: Blood Will Tell and Star Trek Special: Flesh and Stone, but no other main Enterprise cast members had been utilized by the time Waypoint debuted, despite repeated reader requests for more tales of the NX-01 crew.
This story doesn’t feature characters from Enterprise other than Archer, but a neat twist connects it back to the episode “Cold Front.” During the captain’s childhood, a Suliban agent tries to assassinate him in a remote, snowy region by causing the youth to fall through ice and drown. A mysterious beagle saves his life, but the boy is surprised to find it’s not his family dog. Decades later, while commanding the Enterprise, he realizes his savior had been Porthos, his beagle companion in his adult years, as the pet had been sent back in time by temporal agent Daniels to save his master’s life.
Oddly, the comic is said to occur in 2020, despite that being a century before Archer’s era. Archer was born is 2112 (maybe he knew Rush’s Temple Priests of Syrinx), so it’s likely the 2020 dating was merely a typo, with 2120 the intended placement. Compared with the horrific events of real-world 2020, a fictional alien murdering a fictional child in that year no longer seems so shocking, does it? In any case, it’s a cute story, though it would have been nice to see other cast members show up. The fact that no comic has yet starred fan favorites T’Pol, Trip Tucker, or Shran is heartbreaking.
The Bashir tale, “Frontier Medicine,” calls back to Star Trek: Nemesis with mention of the planet Nibiru-Three. Since the movie had hit theaters only four years prior, it’s not a stretch to assume the script was referencing Into Darkness’s Nibiru. After all, there’s no reason the star system wouldn’t exist in both the prime and Kelvintimelines. Meanwhile, two other Waypoint stories deserve special mention in this discussion, as they tie directly to obscure corners of the Star Trek mythos.
The first is “The Menace of the Mechanitrons,” from Ward, Dilmore, and Purcell, while the other is “The Fear,” written and illustrated by Hardman. “The Menace of the Mechanitrons” is a pastiche to the classic Gold Key line. Much like the bonus story in Star Trek: New Visions, Volume 2, it provides a comical send-up of that publisher’s idiosyncrasies: the overly melodramatic dialogue, the constant use of exclamation points, the unorthodox approach to stardates, Kirk surrendering at the drop of a hat, bald Caucasian aliens in peril, and so on—and Purcell deftly mimics the publisher’s six-panel layout. The result is a story immediately recognizable as honoring the 1960s comic style.
As for “The Fear,” it reveals an untold mission from the timeline of Star Trek: Phase II, making it the second licensed comic ever to revisit that aborted show, following DC’s Star Trek #7–8. Consistent with how Phase II would have continued the mythos, the Enterprise refit differs from the one for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, while the crew wears uniforms like those from The Original Series, as they do in surviving footage. Will Decker is the first officer, Ilia sits at navigation, and Spock has been replaced as science officer by Xon, the full-blooded Vulcan set to star in Phase II before Paramount pulled the plug so it could instead film The Motion Picture.
Xon was Saavik’s betrothed in the above-linked DC arc, and the Waypoint story may be purposely calling back to that tale. He exposes a Romulan plot to forcibly breed a terror-inducing species, but the scheme goes awry and many Romulans die. What’s intriguing is that the DC tale also saw Xon thwarting a Romulan plot, and it ended with the Romulans perishing from their own scientific handiwork. What’s more, DC’s story saw pon farr causing Saavik to experience overwhelming paranoia due to hormones, much like this tale involves characters experiencing overwhelming terror due to pheromones. It’s a great homage not only to Star Trek’s lost TV series, but also to DC’s revered run. If it wasn’t intentional, it’s a remarkable coincidence and still a great homage.
Waypoint later returned with a pair of one-shots, and we’ll explore those as well. In the meantime, next week’s column will return to the Kelvin timeline to wrap up Star Trek: 5-Year Mission. After that, we’ll come back to the prime reality for more Star Trek: New Visions, followed by the ongoing Star Trek: Boldly Go line and a wealth of miniseries set in the mirror universe. Stay tuned.
Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:
- My ongoing column for Titan Books’ Star Trek Explorer magazine
- The Complete Star Trek Comics Index, curated by yours truly
- The Star Trek Comics Checklist, by Mark Martinez
- The Wixiban Star Trek Collectables Portal, by Colin Merry
- New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, by Joseph F. Berenato (Sequart, 2014)
- Star Trek: A Comics History, by Alan J. Porter (Hermes Press, 2009)
- The Star Trek Comics Weekly page on Facebook
Rich Handley has written, co-written, co-edited, or contributed to dozens of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about Planet of the Apes, Watchmen, Back to the Future, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Stargate, Dark Shadows, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Red Dwarf, Blade Runner, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman, the Joker, classic monsters, and more. He has also been a magazine writer and editor for nearly three decades. Rich edited Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection, and he currently writes articles for Titan’s Star Trek Explorer magazine, as well as books for an as-yet-unannounced role-playing game. Learn more about Rich and his work at richhandley.com.